You have to be able to have some fun and be a kid at heart to be a teacher for 33 years and also sit on Okotoks town council for more than a quarter of century.
One thing is for sure, Mayor Bill Robertson, who died from cancer on July 7, always had kids in his heart.
During his service on July 17, Dr. Morris Gibson School teacher Bonnie Kentch informed Robertson’s grandchildren that it was their grandfather who came up with the Big Rock School motto when they were both teaching there years ago.
“Do you know your grandpa created the Big Rock School motto that is still hanging up at Big Rock?” Kentch said. “That motto says, ‘This school is for kids.’
“And you guys know for sure how your grandpa loved kids.”
Former Big Rock vice-principal David Halase got his first job at Foothills School Division as a phys-ed teacher at Percy Pegler Elementary School. It was Robertson, who was teaching at Pegler at the time, who took Halase under his wing.
Halase was replacing a popular teacher who had died from cancer.
“He was this larger-than-life character and I got hired into his spot there,” Halase said. “So typical of Bill, he made me feel so welcomed. He was an amazing guy. He took me under his wing. It was a lovely moment to be welcomed by him... He made sure I was included.”
Inclusion with Robertson meant playing a bit of floor hockey for Halase.
However, it was when he was with children when Robertson really lit up.
“My favourite memories are outdoor ed — it was a place he could really shine,” Halase said. “I remember at Outdoor Ed and we would traipse around the tents making sure the kids were in.
“We would eavesdrop a little bit and Bill would add his two bits.
“There would always be this explosion of laughter: ‘Mr. Robertson...’
“It was just a thrill to be with him..., To see him so at ease out there was a wonderful thing.”
When Halase moved to a different school, Robertson became the phys-ed teacher at Pegler for more than two decades.
The gymnasium at Percy Pegler was renamed the Bill Robertson Gymnasium in February 2012 shortly after his retirement.
“When a student got hurt Mr. Robertson would grab him by the legs and swing him,” said Paige Quigley, a Grade 5 student at Ecole Percy Pegler during the 2012 ceremony. “I loved the fact that he was crazy. You would start laughing until you forgot about it.”
There was one problem with swinging students or giving them rides in rubber ball carriers if they were injured. Sometimes students played possum just to get cheered up Bill-Robertson style.
“With the rubber ball bin, if a kid got hurt, we would joke around that the bin was the ambulance and toss him in the bin and roll him around,” Robertson said in an interview at the gym opening ceremony in 2012. “The kid would bounce around and all the other kids were making ambulance sounds. By the time you got halfway around the gym the kid was laughing.”
When Robertson didn’t have a gym, it was a chance to have the students display his love and appreciation for Okotoks.
When Robertson didn’t have a gym available due to renovations at Pegler , it was a chance to show the students his love and appreciation for Okotoks.
Susan Laurin, Okotoks community health and safety director, recalls the students walking into the centre and chanting, ‘Bisons,’ ‘Oilers’ ‘Dawgs’ or whatever Okotoks team Robertson was promoting.
“He loved this community,” Laurin said.